Jesus thought us to pray…lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil [or, the evil one]. But, I thought God’s usual job was to lead us away from temptation! Why would we need to ask God not to lead us into temptation? Does he? Apostle James answered saying “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one”.
John Piper of DesiringGod.Org illuminated this portion of the Lord’s Prayer in this manner “…Today I will stand before innumerable temptations. That’s what life is: endless choices between belief and unbelief, obedience and disobedience. But, O mighty God, forbid that I would yield. Hold me back from stepping inside the temptation.” In essence God does not do the tempting—he does not put evil desires in our hearts (for he can have no evil desires in his heart)—but he does bring us into the presence of many tests and temptations for “A man’s steps are from the Lord” (Proverbs 20:24). In fact, every step we take is a step into the presence of temptation. There is no moment of your life that is not a moment of temptation.
The idea of God leading His people is a major theme in Scripture. The Psalms especially are filled with pleas for God to lead us in His ways (Psalm 5:8; 27:11), by His truth and righteousness and in “the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:24). Along with leading us to good things, it is understood that we are asking God to lead us away from evil. The petition not to be led into temptation reflects the believer’s desire to avoid the dangers of sin altogether.
However, what we seek or shun in prayer, we should equally pursue or avoid in our action, we should avoid temptation always, carefully trending the path of obedience, that we may never lure the devil to tempt us. Jesus, our Saviour, who had experience of what temptation meant, admonished us to “Pray that ye enter not into temptation.”
There is another sense in which we are to plead with God not to lead us into temptation. The word “temptation” can also refer to trials. We know from 1 Corinthians 10:13 that God will not test us beyond our ability to bear and will always provide a way out. But He sometimes subjects us to trials that may expose us to Satan’s assaults for His own purposes, as in the case of Job and Peter (Luke 22:31-32) and even Jesus (Luke 4:1-13) It is not wrong to pray that we may be delivered from trials and suffering, as long as we submit ourselves to the will of God, no matter what it is. The believer can rightly ask to be delivered from this type of testing as well as asking for the strength to endure it if it does come.
Be it as it may, we will be tempted; hence the prayer “deliver us from evil.” God had one Son without sin; but He has no son without temptation. The natural man is born to temptation. We must be always on our watch against Satan, because, like a thief, he gives no warning of his approach. Believers who have had experience of the ways of Satan, know that there are certain seasons when he will most likely attack; thus as Christian we should put on a double guard as it is said Prevention is better than cure. It is better to be so well armed that the devil will not attack you, than to endure the perils of the fighting temptation, even though you come off a conqueror. Pray this evening first that you may not be tempted, and next that if temptation be permitted, you may be delivered from the evil one.